June 3, 2006

The critics of standards and accountability

I have started to write a new book, titled Accountability Frankenstein, that I hope to finish by the end of the summer and get to a press shortly afterwards. If I can stay disciplined and write a few hours every day, I should accomplish my goal. And, on the way, I'll be putting in a few teasers of short excerpts or paraphrases of some material. Today's is the first...


Susan Ohanian, Alfie Kohn, Marion Brady, and many others have criticized accountability systems well before I did. But, unlike these critics, I do not see standards as evil in themselves. Others, though, see the technocracy of accountability as unnatural. Ohanian, for example, calls advocates of high-stakes testing standardistos. For years, Kohn has railed against the use of rewards and punishments at all in schools, either for individual students or for educators. Brady has argued that standards themselves, commonly rooted in conventional disciplinary definitions, are inappropriate. I think I understand these humanistic critics of standards and accountability. To use technocratic tools to improve education threatens to remove the individualism, spontaneity, and joy of the best education many of us have experienced. The real world, to Brady and others, is more complicated than our compartmentalized curriculum. Good education, to Ohanian and Kohn, relies on something more than scripting. Most of us have had our “aha” or eureka moments, where something a teacher said gave us a new perspective, or where we finally understood a concept we had struggled with. And in most cases, these moments did not come in scripted lessons or during fill-in-the-bubble tests. To many critics of high-stakes accountability, trying to improve education by standardizing it is an obscene marriage of technocracy and democracy.

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Posted in Accountability Frankenstein on June 3, 2006 7:17 PM |